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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Tradition as asset or burden for transitions from forests as cropping systems to multifunctional forest landscapes: Sweden as a case study

Angelstam, Per; Asplund, Brita; Bastian, Olaf; Engelmark, Ola; Fedoriak, Mariia; Grunewald, Karsten; Ibisch, Pierre L.; Lindvall, Per; Manton, Michael; Nilsson, Magnus; Nilsson, Sten B.; Roberntz, Peter; Shkaruba, Anton; Skoog, Per; Soloviy, Ihor; Svoboda, Miroslav; Teplyakov, Victor; Tivell, Anders; Westholm, Erik; Zhuk, Alina;
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Expectations of what forests and woodlands should provide vary among locations, stakeholder groups, and over time. Developing multifunctional forests requires understanding of the dynamic roles of traditions and cultural legacies in social-ecological systems at multiple levels and scales. Implementing policies about multifunctional forests requires a landscape and social-ecological perspective, and recognition of both spatial and temporal features at multiple scales. This study explores the dissemination of even-aged silviculture in central, eastern and northern Europe, and the consequences of choosing different vantage points in social-ecological systems for mapping of barriers, and to identify levers, towards multifunctional forest landscapes. Using a narrative approach, we first summarise the development of even-aged silviculture in four European regions. Next, we focus on Sweden as a keen adopter of even-aged silviculture, and identify levers at three groups of vantage points. They were (1) biosphere with biodiversity as short-hand for composition, structure and function of ecosystems, which support human well-being at multiple scales; (2) society in terms of different levels of stakeholder interactions from local to global, and (3) economy represented by value chain hierarchies and currencies. The emergence of even-aged silviculture >200 years ago formed an expanding frontier from central to northern Europe. Sustained yield wood production and biodiversity conservation encompass different portfolios of ecosystem aspects and spatio-temporal scales. Ignorance and lack of knowledge about these differences enforce their mutual rivalry. An exploratory review of six groups of stakeholders at multiple levels in the traditional industrial forest value chain highlights inequalities in terms of distribution of income and power across different levels of governance. This effectively marginalises other than powerful industrial actors. The distribution of financial results along the value chain is dynamic in space and time, and not all benefits of forest ecosystems can be measured using monetary valuation. There are also other currencies and incentives. A discussion of cultural trajectories in central and eastern European, Russian and Swedish forest management illustrates that forest history patterns repeat themselves. Longitudinal case studies of countries and regions can help foster holistic multi-dimensional and multilevel systems thinking. Application of deep levers of change is likely to require external drivers. A key challenge is to handle the manufacturing of doubt and decay of truth, i.e., the appearance of alternative facts, and the diminishing role of evidence and systems analyses in political and civic discourses. This transition is fuelled by new and rapidly evolving digital arenas.


Forest history; Collaborative learning; Honest broker; Landscape planning; Landscape stewardship; Systems-based thinking; Transformative change

Published in

Forest Ecology and Management
2022, Volume: 505, article number: 119895
Publisher: ELSEVIER

    SLU Authors

    • Sustainable Development Goals

      SDG15 Life on land
      SDG8 Decent work and economic growth

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Forest Science

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